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Social Security For Dummies Paperback – April 17, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

A step-by-step guide to getting Social Security benefits for you and your family

Learn to:

  • Make sure you — and your family — get the benefits you've earned
  • Navigate the system
  • Determine when you qualify for retirement and disability benefits
  • Challenge a decision on your benefits
  • Understand how the program is funded

Confused or uncertain about Social Security? This friendly, easy-to-understand guide cuts through the complexities and gives you the practical information you need to make sense of Social Security, make the most of the program, and make smart decisions about retirement.

  • Start with the basics — learn what Social Security is and how it works, as well as why you need it and how to qualify
  • Take the plunge — find out how to file for Social Security, collect and keep your benefits, and deal with the Social Security Administration
  • Discover the benefits — grasp the rules covering spousal, family, and disability benefits and learn strategies to help you maximize your benefits
  • Plan for economic security — discover how Social Security and Medicare work together to help with healthcare costs, get the facts on working in retirement, and consider how Social Security fits into your financial future

Open the book and find:

  • Easy explanations of Social Security's complex rules
  • How to use Social Security calculators and statements
  • Advice on when to start collecting retirement benefits
  • Tips for keeping your Social Security number safe from theft
  • How to help a loved one apply for and manage benefits
  • Ways to handle benefit mistakes and disputes
  • Ten myths about Social Security
  • How potential program changes could affect you

About the Author

Jonathan Peterson is Executive Communications Director at AARP and an award-winning journalist. He is a former Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. During his news career, he covered the White House, state and national political campaigns, and various facets of U.S. domestic and economic policy. He was a 2007 National Press Foundation fellow in the Retirement Issues in the 21st Century program.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118205731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118205730
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. J. Spivack VINE VOICE on May 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before I start, some disclosure. I'm a planner by profession and I answer Social Security questions everyday. I've got all the publications and lots more by way of research resources. I won't say I'm an expert but I do lots of research and spend time everyday on their website.

Except, now I won't have to. The Social Security for Dummies (2012) comes with AARP's stamp of approval for a good reason. There isn't a single facet of the programs, benefits, etc. that is not covered thoroughly and well explained. Misnamed, the '...for Dummies' series is, in my opinion, quite good. This book is a terrific resource for anyone wanting to know more. Its well organized, written and in a voice that will not put people to sleep. Any idea how rare that is? I've been doing this for decades and haven't seen another document this well done.

One particularly good section is the appeal process if you don't agree with the Administration'd decisions. That is NOT very well covered in the official publications.

The only drawback that I can foresee with the book is that it will need updating every year. Cost of living adjustments, changes to taxes, etc. happen nearly every year and this book, relating all of them, will need updating. In short, whether you are a novice or a pro, this book's a real gem. But if you are a pro and depend upon it, you may need to buy it every year.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
SOCIAL SECURITY FOR DUMMIES provides an excellent overview of almost all facets of social security in its various forms, although it is not likely to cover a lot of specific questions related to an individual's unique circumstances. But that does not detract from its value. It is an ideal starting point for persons wishing comprehensive and moderately detailed information that will help them make informed decisions - and locate additional resources that address their particular concerns.

The chapters in the book address the following: what social security is, a breakdown of its benefits, deciding when to start collecting for retirement, protection, signing up, determining earnings amount, navigating the system, appeals, spousal and family benefits, social security disability (SSDI and SSI), enrolling in Medicare, working during retirement, and shaping your retirement. Additional chapters pertain to: myths about social security, advice for young people, the future of social security, a glossary, and a long list of both online and offline resources.

I chose to read this book (from cover to cover, except for the family-oriented chapters) because I recently turned 60, and have not been very knowledgeable about social security and Medicare. I wanted to know how exactly what retirement benefits I'd receive at various ages, and (post 65) after Medicare deductions. I also needed to decide whether to start collecting social security early, and whether it was worthwhile for me, at this age to apply for SSDI because of chronic illness.

The book answered most of my questions, but raised at least as many new questions.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Don't get me wrong, I feel that Jonathan Peterson did a good job in explaining how to optimize claiming your Social Security benefits with all the relevant intricacies it entails.

However, Peterson was enslaved to the tacit "For Dummies" editorial format. The latter entails that a book has to be 300 pages long and include a series of "Ten of this" and "Ten of that" chapters. In this case, those editorial imperatives were a waste. The "Ten of this" thing could have been skipped as the author veered into subjects unrelated to one's understanding of their Social Security benefits such as Social Security advocacy, fiscal and political considerations. If you are interested in fiscal analysis, I recommend CBO studies and the annual report of the Social Security Trust fund. Both of those will give you a ton of info on the subject for free.

Continuing on the "For Dummies" editorial mandate, this subject would have been far better treated by cutting at least a 100 pages. The book appears often verbose and repetitive. You read the same subject over and over such as the structure of spousal benefits, the related penalties when claiming those early, etc...

Besides covering the basics really well, there are a couple of things I found really interesting:

- The first one is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has put a stop to Lawrence Kotlikoff (an economist and expert on Social Security) sophisticated strategy of taking your benefits early at 62, then repaying them back to the SSA near 70, to in turn claiming them back at 70 at the maximum level. This amounted to an interest free loan of SS benefits from 62 to 70.
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Concepts, explanations and tips are repeated throughout the book making the book longer than needed. The links are somewhat useful however, those links could be found by googling. Editing for redundant information would reduce this book to a few dozen pages.
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